done with the state of the union address

Once upon a time, I was a rabid football fan. I spent nearly every weekend holed up here or there, ingesting endless hours of college and pro football to the point where I knew the names of some of the key players’ wives and mothers just from hearing them so much.
podiumThen one day, the NFL players started complaining about how they were being treated and their pay rates. I read article after article about the issue and discovered I gave absolutely zero fucks about how bad these players who were being paid millions of dollars a year to play a game – granted, a brutal and punishing game – felt they were being treated by team owners and the league.

I believe everybody should be paid a fair wage for the work they do, and playing in the NFL is definitely work, so don’t get me wrong – these guys SHOULD be paid. I had to take a hard look at what my fanaticism said about me, though, and I decided that supporting that many millionaires with my time, effort and loyalty was unwarranted.  I gave up the NFL and focused on college ball.

Not long after that – maybe a couple of years – I started paying attention to how much college players are exploited by the NCAA sports-industrial complex, which essentially commoditizes young men and turns them into entertainment revenue without truly compensating them. Sure, they get a college education, but if you want to know how that works, you should take a look at NCAA Division I football graduation rates.  Without getting too much into it, the NCAA basically functions as a feeder league for the NFL and since I gave up the NFL, I felt like a hypocrite for continuing to support the NFL by being an NCAA football consumer.

What I noticed after walking away from NCAA football is how much free time I had on the weekends.  It was amazing.  Watching football had become the equivalent of a part-time weekend job for me, and bailing on it gave me time to do numerous rewarding things with my life, like spend time with my family, play music and ride motorcycles.  I haven’t watched the Super Bowl in close to 10 years and haven’t seen an NCAA bowl game in at least 8 – don’t even get me started on the NCAA’s “playoff” system.

I told you all that to tell you this: I’m walking away from the State of the Union address.

For the last 6 or 8 years or so, I haven’t been watching the SOTU because I haven’t had cable TV and am not interested in sitting in front of my computer to stream this annual event.  I satisfied myself by poring over transcripts of the address, as well as the enemy – er, opposite party’s retribution – um, I mean rebuttal – and basing my analysis on WHAT was said rather than HOW THEY SAID IT.  I felt removing the viewable event aspect of the SOTU helped me better understand what was being said without bias derived from facial expressions, hand movements, etc.

That’s over as well now.  Not SOTU for me, no more. It’s not that I don’t care about the country or our politics, because I do.  Rather, it’s that the SOTU has slowly become political theater, an opportunity for the president to grandstand, pontificate, bloviate, obfuscate and outright lie to the American public.  You might think because of the timing that I’m talking about Trump, and while I am, it’s not just him.  Trump is just the latest, worst offender when it comes to the SOTU.  Obama, both Bushes, Clinton, even Reagan all used the SOTU podium in a joint session of Congress to deliver a cheerleading chant rather than a substantive, thoughtful statement on the progress being made by and challenges to our society and its grand democratic experiment.

Add to that the opposite party’s “rebuttal” that follows directly on the SOTU’s heels and you have more political theater.  The other party isn’t listening to respond, they’re just waiting for their turn to say “NO – THAT IS ALL WRONG!” and do the same thing the president has done – bloviate, pontificate, obfuscate and lie to the American public.

From 2019 on, then, I will not be putting any of my time or attention into watching, listening to, reading, reading about or discussing the State of the Union address.  Instead I will pay attention to political events and issues that actually matter, that can serve to have some positive effect on our society and give us the opportunity to learn and grow rather than just listen to partisan rhetoric that gets nothing done and takes us nowhere.

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unpacking the state of the union address

Everybody’s in a tizzle over Nancy Pelosi disinviting the president from delivering the traditional State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.  Then everybody got in a tizzle over Donald Trump just cancelling the whole thing instead of finding another venue from which to deliver the speech.

If you ask me, it’s all more examples of Donny and The Nance acting like children instead of leaders, but that’s a discussion for another time.

This whole the president delivering a speech in front of a joint session of Congress thing is a tradition, anyway, not law.  George Washington addressed Congress, as did John Adams, but Thomas Jefferson said fuck that noise and sent his update to Congress in the form of a hand-written letter. Seems Jefferson felt the whole ritual smacked too much of what the kings of England used to do, so he ditched it.  Once the speeches started back up, they weren’t even called State of the Union addresses until Franklin Roosevelt started calling them that during the Great Depression. The name is catchy and it stuck.

For about 100 years after Jefferson ditched the speeches, presidents submitted written updates to Congress, not giving speeches at all.  That changed in 1913, when Woodrow Wilson gave his speech before Congress.  This was a big deal, not because Wilson was addressing Congress, but because everybody could see Europe headed towards war and Wilson wanted to push his agenda of neutrality.

The reality of the situation is this: the US Constitution requires the president to inform Congress “from time to time” about the state of the union.  Bottom line is that the president is required to do this, but there is nothing mandating it be an annual update, or even done regularly at all.  Congress has to agree to allow the president to give a speech to both chambers – aka a “joint session” – and that’s where we are.

Congress doesn’t have to allow the president to give the speech in their building, and the president doesn’t have to give a speech, let alone even submit an update to Congress on anything resembling a regular schedule.  Those two things – the speech part and the annual part – are simple traditions established by previous presidents and Congresses.  Sometimes there are even two updates given – one by an outgoing president at the end of his term and another by the incoming president at the start of his.

Some interesting facts for you – Jimmy Carter was the last president to submit only a written update, in 1981; Warren Harding delivered the first update broadcast on radio, in 1922; Harry Truman delivered the first update broadcast on television, in 1947; post-address commentary was added to the television broadcast for the first time in 1968 – Lyndon Johnson was president then; Bill Clinton delivered the first update streamed live on the internet, in 1997; the first response to the update given in Spanish was done by Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) in 2004; only one scheduled update has been postponed so far – Ronald Reagan pushed back his 1986 update due to the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger; only one scheduled update has so far been indefinitely postponed* – Donald Trump did this in 2019.

* This was initially written as “cancelled,” but Trump’s 2019 address has not been cancelled, but rather postponed indefinitely.

a chance encounter on the metro

The day started like many of my other commutes. Up at 5, out the door at 5.20, on the train at 5.50, train pulling away from the station at 6.

I slept fitfully on the two-hour train ride, relishing the chilly walk from the Amtrak station over to the Metro station. The brisk morning air counteracted the dour visages that greeted me on the Metro train platform. It took about eight minutes for my train to arrive, and I entered the second car from the front at the forward door, dutifully following the disembodied voice to “move to the center of the car.”

When I reached the center of the car, there she was, walking to the center from the rear door of the car. Lightning struck and a thunderbolt clapped when our eyes met, and everybody else on the train faded to a muted, mottled gray. All sound faded and the only thing I could hear was her voice as she said, “I’m Simone. Who are you?”

“Anthony,” I said, as sure of it as I was anything else in my entire life. “My friends call me Tony.”

“Well, good morning, Tony,” she said, her soft, blue eyes wrapping around my very soul and tearing it out. In an instant, we became one. I was Michael Corleone, she was Apollonia Vitelli. I was Romeo, she was Juliet. Lancelot and Guinevere. Paris and Helena. Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara. Eloise and Abelard. Napoleon and Josephine. In the entire history of love and lovers, never had two souls connected so completely, merged so quickly.

“But I’m married,” she said.

“I’m married, too, and I have kids,” I countered.

“Oh my God, so do I. I completely forgot my kids,” she said.

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“I’ll ride the train with you to wherever you’re going, just … just don’t leave me behind. I couldn’t bear it,” I said.

We rode the train for hours, neither of us caring any more about family, friends, jobs or any of those important, life-defining things. All that mattered was that we were together. We discussed how difficult it would be to break our spouses’ hearts, disrupt our children’s lives – and yet, none of it mattered. None of it. All that mattered was the future – our future, together.

We discussed where to go and settled on Denver. She has family there, I have friends. It’s a good city, clean and modern and with lots of job opportunities. It’s in the middle of the country, sort of, so once the kids got used to the idea of us being together, it would be easy for them to visit.

“Stadium-Armory,” the train driver droned. “Last chance to transfer to the Orange and Silver lines.”

She looked deep into my eyes and said, “I at least have to go get my things from work, and tell them I quit.”

“Me, too,” I added.

“What stop do you need?” she asked.

“Court House,” I said. “Orange line.”

“I need a Blue line train,” she said, a single tear rolling down her cheek.

“There’s nobody else at this station. You’ll be lonely. I’ll wait with you,” I said. “I’ll wait with you.”

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“No, that’s OK,” she said, sadly. “I have a book. I’ll be OK.”

She broke our gaze to ruffle in her purse, finding what she was looking for and drawing a thick paperback from its depths.

“Pride and Prejudice?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I just love Jane Austen. I was even in a production of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ in college.”

“Is that so?” I asked as I shoved her in front of the train speeding through the station at that very moment.

NO PASSENGERS, the sign on its marquee read.

lies, damn lies and statistics

At this point, about one month into the Trump Administration, I’m kind of beyond caring how good or bad a job Donald Trump can or will do. I’m pissed, and I can’t hold it in any longer.

He’s a liar. A lying liar what lies. AND HE LIES ABOUT STUPID SHIT.

On 16 Feb 2017, Trump gave a press conference to announce his new nominee for Secretary of the Department of Labor. He had to do this because his first choice withdrew from consideration after he figured out there wasn’t enough support in committee to get him to a full Senate vote. This is politics, it happens. Not really that big a deal.

The press conference, however, went on… and on… AND ON for 77 minutes. The thing I find myself focusing on is the one massively, obviously disprovable lie he told – and has been telling for weeks.

First he said he won the biggest electoral margin since Reagan.

Wrong.

Then he said he won the biggest electoral margin of any Republican since Reagan.

WRONG.

Here’s the cold, hard facts on every election from Reagan’s first in 1980 through the one we just had in 2016.

  • 2016
    • Trump (R) – 304
    • HR Clinton (D) – 227
    • Ratio of Victory – 1.3:1
  • 2012
    • Obama (D) – 332
    • Romney (R) – 206
    • 1.6:1
  • 2008
    • Obama – 365
    • McCain – 173
    • 2.1:1
  • 2004
    • GW Bush – 286
    • Kerry – 251
    • 1.1:1
  • 2000
    • GW Bush – 271
    • Gore – 266
    • 1.018:1
  • 1996
    • WJ Clinton – 379
    • Dole – 159
    • 2.4:1
  • 1992
    • WJ Clinton – 370
    • GHW Bush – 168
    • 2.2:1
  • 1988
    • GHW Bush – 426
    • Dukakis – 111
    • 3.8:1
  • 1984
    • Reagan – 525
    • Mondale – 13
    • 40.4:1
  • 1980
    • Reagan – 489
    • Carter – 49
    • 10:1

There you have it folks – cold, hard, historical facts. Reagan’s narrowest margin of victory still saw him pull down 91% of the electoral votes. Trump’s win over Hillary Clinton doesn’t even crack the top 10 lowest margin-of-victory contests. Trump got 56.5% of the electoral votes, more than Kennedy (56.4%) but less than Truman (57%). Barack Obama won the closer of his two elections, in 2012, with 61.7% of the electoral votes.

The last Republican to win before Trump was George W. Bush, both of whose victories are in the lowest 10 margin-of-victory elections; the hotly contested 2000 election that was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court saw him win with 50.37% of the electoral votes. In his “big” victory in 2004, he got 53.16% of the electoral votes.

The list of presidents who won a higher percentage of electoral votes than Donald Trump reads like a who’s-who list of presidents you never heard of: Van Buren, Garfield, Harrison, Buchanan, McKinley, Polk, Taft, Grant, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover and Pierce.

Quick – can you name one thing – ONE THING – that William Henry Harrison did in office other than die less than 31 days into his presidency? No, you can’t! AND HE WON 79.6% OF THE ELECTORAL VOTES!!

Donald Trump won a higher percentage of the electoral votes than precisely five presidents in the last 100 years: George W. Bush (twice), John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon (1st election), Jimmy Carter and Woodrow Wilson. That’s it. Literally every other president since the 1916 election has won with a higher percentage electoral votes than Trump.

Just so you know, other than George Washington – who got 100% of the electoral votes both times he was elected – the only other presidents to come close to Ronald Reagan’s crushing defeat of Walter Mondale (525 to 13) were James Monroe (1792, 231 to 1), Franklin Roosevelt (1936, his 2nd election, 523 to 8), and Richard Nixon (1972, his 2nd election, 520 to 17). No other president won with a greater than 95% take in the Electoral College.

Every president since Reagan except for GW Bush got a higher percentage of electoral votes than Donald Trump did. There is no disputing these facts. I cannot help but wonder that if Trump is willing to lie about something so quickly and easily disprovable, what else is he willing to lie about?

 

2016 looking good for metal

It’s been a banner year for metal so far – and it’s only just now the end of February!!

—Black Sabbath on (farewell) tour & releases EP “The End” (though they’re only selling it at the concerts)
—Megadeth releases LP “Dystopia”
—Dream Theater releases LP “The Astonishing”
—Prong releases LP “X (No Absolutes)” and makes up for their dreadful album of covers in 2015 in a big way
—Anthrax releases LP “For All Kings”
—Voivod releases EP “Post Society”

We still have albums to look forward to coming from:

—Metallica; possibility of total suckfest 75% (yes, “Death Magnetic” was good – but “Lulu”? That album SUCKED – even for Metallica!)
—Tool; 1st album in 10 years thanks to legal issues getting resolved
—Deftones; last 2 albums were excellent
—Gojira; the best French metal band you’ve never heard of

All of this coming on the heels of a decent year of metal that was 2015:

—Baroness released LP “Purple” – not as good as “Yellow/Green” or even “Red,” but still better than 95% of anything put out in the last few years
—Disturbed announced the end of their 4-year hiatus & released LP “Immortalized”
—Fear Factory released LP “Genexus”
—Soulfly released LP “Archangel”
—Ghost dropped the “B.C.” from their name and released LP “Meliora,” their best album to date
—Motorhead released LP “Bad Magic”
—Pentagram released LP “Curious Volume”
—Iron Maiden released LP “The Book of Souls”
—Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats released LP “The Night Creeper”
—Slayer released LP “Relentless”
—Sevendust released LP “Kill the Flaw”
—Black Tide released LP “Chasing Shadows”
—Stryper released LP “Fallen”

There was some suckitude in the last few months as well, as the metal world lost some hard chargers and legends: AJ Pero (Twisted Sister) died on tour with Adrenline Mob; Lemmy & Phil Taylor (Motorhead) both died, Lemmy within days of his birthday; and in a tragedy that reminded many of us of what happened in Rhode Island in 2003, 4 of the 5 members of Goodbye to Gravity died along with 59 other people after the band’s pyro touched off a raging fire in a nightclub in Bucharest. They were celebrating the release of their (now final) LP, “Mantras of War.”

Fist

ChibaSplaining – Caucus vs. Primary

With the 2016 presidential election campaign season FINALLY getting started this year (koff!), I thought it worth discussing the differences between a caucus and a primary.  (I asked seven people today if they knew the difference – and they didn’t.)

Both a caucus and a primary are ways for states to decide who is going to run for president in the general election.  Each results in the selection or assignment of delegates that will speak for a certain candidate at a political party gathering later in the year, generally in the summer.

There are no hard and fast rules, so much of what I’m putting down here are generalizations.  There will always be exceptions to these rules.

CAUCUS

  • Originated in the American Colonies before the United States existed
  • Voting is public, sometimes by people simply raising their hands
  • Only registered voters may participate
  • Registered voters may only vote for candidates from their party
  • Often benefits candidates with highly organized volunteer groups supporting them due to the public nature of the voting
  • Caucus states/territories:  AK, CO, HI, IA, KS, ME, MN, NV, ND, WY, American Samoa, Guam, Virgin Islands

PRIMARY

  • Came into common practice in the early 1900s
  • Voting is by secret ballot
  • Only registered voters may participate
  • Types of primaries
    • Open Primary – any registered voter (including Independents) can vote for any candidate
    • Semi-Open Primary – any registered voter (including Independents) can vote, but they must vote on a party-specific ballot
    • Closed Primary – registered voters may only vote for candidates from their party; this excludes registered Independent voters
    • Semi-Closed Primary – registered voters may only vote for candidates from their party; Independents may vote, but they must vote on a party-specific ballot

The reason for the caucus and primary process is to assign delegates to candidates for counting at the party convention in the summer of the election year.  The candidate with the most delegates becomes that party’s candidate for president.  Some states assign delegates proportionally – that is, if a candidate receives 20% of the primary votes, that candidate gets assigned 20% of the state’s delegates and the rest are assigned based on how many votes the other candidates got.  Other states assign delegates in a winner-take-all fashion; if there are seven candidates and the top candidate receives 20% of the votes, that candidate gets 100% of the state’s delegates and the rest of the candidates get none.  This delegate variance is reflected in the Electoral College, which is the state-level mechanism that determines who wins a presidential election.

Voting is the only real power the common citizen has in the United States, and it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution.  I encourage every citizen of voting age (currently 18 or older) to get educated about the candidates and vote in every election possible.  Politicians talk endlessly about change this and change that, but the only people who can truly put change into motion are voters.

Fist

the year in movies – 2015

In my quest to reduce discretionary spending as I save up to buy a house, I didn’t go to many movies this year.  As a result, I saw very few new movies.  Perhaps not coincidentally, they were all movies my daughter wanted to see.  Here’s the whole list:

  • Jurassic World
  • Shaun the Sheep Movie
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

In addition, I saw two other new movies (that is, released in 2015) on Netflix:

  • Infini
  • The Wrecking Crew

Other  than Infini, they were all good.  Infini was OK – clearly a riff on Alien, and not a great one.

Star Wars was the best of the bunch, no doubt.

There were a bunch of movies I wanted to see but didn’t – and won’t until they hit Netflix.  I figure I saved myself at least $350-400 and close to 100 hours of time by not going to see all these movies in the theater:

The Hateful Eight
The Big Short
The Martian
Spectre
The Man from UNCLE
Trainwreck
Bridge of Spies
Ex Machina
Vacation
Black Mass
Spy
San Andreas
400 Days
Focus
Tomorrowland
Straight Outta Compton
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Mr. Holmes
Chappie
Mortdecai
Child 44
Woman in Gold
He Never Died
Diablo
McFarland, USA
Truth
Cop Car
Rock the Casbah
Synchronicity
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Runner
Selma
Spotlight

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